Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: Phantom by Jo Nesbø

Harry Hole, Jo Nesbø’s damaged hero comes back from retirement in order to help Oleg, the boy he helped raise—in a past that now that seems as distant to him as his own youth— prove his innocence in a murder case.

Phantom is the most appropriate title one could think for this novel. Hole is a phantom of his old self, and is haunted by his past, but he’s also on the hunt for a man nobody seems to know much about.

His return to Oslo from Hong Kong, where he has somehow managed to make a new beginning feels almost like an ordeal to him. He feels at a loss in his own city, a city whose streets and alleys, bars and underground dens knows like the back of his hand. I no longer belong here, he seems to think, and perhaps he’s right.

But how can you help someone who doesn’t want your help? How can you get into places, find people, and ask questions, when you no longer carry a badge? Harry has no juice anymore, no power, and if it wasn’t for an old colleague he’d feel as lonely as one could be in his native land. Even Rakel, his ex-lover and Oleg’s mother, the woman who summoned him, doesn’t seem to want to come in close contact with him.

Despite all the obstacles though or from a sense of duty towards the former or love for the latter, he simply cannot get on a plane and fly back to the place he came from. So he checks-in in a rundown hotel and starts investigating. This case though will prove hard to crack, since more often than not he finds himself at a dead end; every answer he gets gives birth to new questions, and every clue he follows seems to lead him to yet another dark place, to yet another labyrinth.

As the reader follows Harry through the darkness of the streets, he comes face to face with junkies and drug dealers, with cold-blooded killers and some desperate people; people like him. At times he feels like that he should give everything up and leave, but deep down he knows that he’d never do that. He loves Oleg, and so he’ll keep on fighting for him, even though the boy of the past, the young man of today, doesn’t really seem to like him anymore. Could he be hiding something from him? Did he actually kill the man he’s accused of killing?

He has to find the answers, no matter what, and he has to keep fighting with his personal demon; the one that keeps telling him to go to a bar and lose his self in oblivion. But he doesn’t drink anymore, and he really shouldn’t start again now. Not now, not quite yet.

Jo Nesbø delivers another great yet bleak crime fiction novel that talks about the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men.

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